Michael Bailey: Lambert’s ghost, Germans, plan B and hotter than Tampa – Six things from Canaries’ Millwall roar
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Who knew Lions roaring and Canaries flying would be such a potent mix? Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey delivers his six things learned from the new Championship leaders' stunning win.
1 – The ghost of Lambert lives on
It seems the new East Anglian derby rivalry reality will be laced with the taste of Paul Lambert for a while to come – as punctuated by a tweet from Ipswich reporter Stuart Watson early on Saturday: ''Lambert give us a wave' chant the #itfc fans. He duly obliges to rousing cheers. 1-2 (19).'
Still a surreal sentence to read given all he achieved here – and that only fuels the links to such a stunning turn of events at Carrow Road.
City's February 2011 home win over Millwall under Lambert on their way to automatic promotion came with a 94th minute winner. What we got this weekend, despite it being only November, were scenes and feelings last experienced in those heady days.
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How Lambert's legacy at both ends of the A140 develops will depend so much on whether he can replicate similar success at Town.
Yet it feels a quirk of fate that it's City now recreating such magic, with an identity forged in Dortmund.
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2 – Plan B can be just a variation
It's now a weekly trend: one moment of exceptional football shared across the internet, left to define the Norwich City way. This weekend, it was that remarkable 90+7 winner.
The seventh minute of added time, winning a free-kick in your own box just minutes after appearing to salvage a point. No panic or desperation. No lack of ambition. No loss of focus. No plan B – at least in the traditional sense of getting it in the mixer and seeing what drops.
In fact, the ball didn't leave the floor – eight passes from box to box. A thing of beauty that gets better with each replay; more impressive with each realisation of its context.
'If the game is not going well in the final 10 minutes, I am going to try to make it better' – the plan B philosophy of Pep Guardiola.
Norwich now have their identity. Everyone knows what they will try to do – the best bit is that stopping them doing it has become one of the toughest tasks in the Championship.
3 – It's time to give it to a German
Let's dive headlong into churlish territory, shall we? Part of City's German appreciation was surely supposed to be the sort of penalty perks that have won so much – all too often at English expense.
And yet here we are: four penalty misses in the Championship this season, and one in each of City's last three games – incredibly, all of them victories.
Jordan Rhodes' penalty record was good before coming to Norwich, while Mario Vrancic had already slotted home once from the spot before missing at Hillsborough – before Teemu Pukki at least got the power element right against Millwall; dare I write that it was a very decent save from Ben Amos.
Regardless of that, the time has arrived to acknowledge (in hope) the wonders of national stereotyping and give the ball to a German the next time City get a spot kick.
The looking of gift horses in mouths needs to end, and the sooner the better.
4 – Pukki is a bona fide prize find
This might feel a bit old hat to some of a Norwich City persuasion – so maybe treat it as more of a reappraisal than realisation.
And Teemu Pukki's first goal especially against Millwall deserves that: the unwavering finish of a goalscorer who is evolving from good form, into proving a class act at Championship level. A little look at his recent track record suggests this is more than a little run.
With the usual nod to @ncfcnumbers on Twitter, only Grant Holt has reached 10 City goals in quicker time since 1990 than Pukki's 10 in 16 games – Holt's came in 15, and that of course was with City in League One.
The fact Jordan Rhodes has eight in 19 is also encouraging, given the chances he has missed in those games – he could just as easily have beaten Pukki to the line.
There will be a barren spell at some point. There always is. But it's already unlikely there will be a better free transfer in the second tier this season.
5 – The Lions' pride can be a blessing
It was a curious build-up with Neil Harris getting bogged down in Norwich's financial situation, Ben Marshall's lack of action and the 'sudden' discovery of the Canaries' backbone.
If he was wondering why Norwich looked so eager to win so late on, that might be part of the reason.
Millwall fans clearly hate Norwich – and after marking half a century of winless trips to such a wonderful part of the country, you can picture the bitterness.
Despite such buoyant joy around Carrow Road, the reality is Millwall probably did enough to have earned a point. Had they not lost their ambitions each time they got ahead, it could have been very different – they certainly couldn't rival Stoke for bus parking, although equally we'll hope Saturday was a sign City are getting better at breaking teams down.
While we'll remember that finish for years to come, Millwall will be better served forgetting that bit and focusing on the rest.
6 – It's getting hot in here (don't take off all your clothes)
So it's Tampa Bay for a week of warm weather training (not for me, I hasten to add) during the final international break of 2018 – with Norwich City top of the Championship and exposed by that damn radar.
Cue this fit of pique from City fan Graham Leeder on Twitter: 'Remember going on an 11-game unbeaten run under Roeder, went warm weather training and barely won another game all season afterwards.'
In all honesty, Graham's sentiment is so classically 'Norfolk' that I don't even want to check if it's true. Anything was always possible under Glenn, that much was guaranteed.
I did it myself on Saturday: suddenly the Championship action elsewhere is defined by the table at the start of the day and the distractions it then causes.
The leaders' Tampa time has pros and cons. After it are trips to Swansea and Hull inside four days – and both will feel a lot warmer than Norwich's week in Florida.
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